Fall is the most mystical season of the year: the thin veil between Fall and Winter, life and death. It’s time for long dark evenings, Halloween and superstitious signs. The dreamy and supernatural theme has been one of the most fascinating subjects of art. Since we’re half way through October, I thought it appropriate to share some mystical masterpieces I love! So let’s get started.
Masks are so unsettling and mystical. This young lady is wearing a Visard. These masks were popular in the 16th century among the wealthy. They were mainly an oval covered in black velvet with two eye holes and a small bead on the inside for the lady to clench between her teeth. It would cover the whole face. They were the first sunscreen, before sunscreen was invented. They were for avoiding sunburn, since pale skin was fashionable and showed one’s class. The caste system was alive and well. The mask was made with no mouth so it may increase the air of mystery about the wearer, although many found the accessory to be downright devilish. Would you wear one today?
La Moretta by Felice Boscarati (1721-1807), oil on canvas
During cool nights, our imagination can toy with us. While you sleep, no one will hear your scream; because you can’t scream (or move, for that matter) when a nightmare. All that tossing and turning you see in the movies? Hollywood has it wrong. “During dream sleep—the REM stage—all our muscles are paralyzed, except for our eye and breathing muscles,” says Aneesa Das, MD, an assistant professor of internal medicine, specializing in sleep at The Ohio State University, Wexner Medical Center.
Henry Fuseli (1741 – 1825) was a Swiss painter, draughtsman and writer on art who spent much of his life in Britain. Many of his works, such as The Nightmare, deal with the supernatural subject-matter.
The Demon Seated is a 1890 symbolist piece by Russian artist, Mikhail Vrubel. In 1889, Vrubel moved to Moscow, where he would produce The Demon Seated as his first large canvas. The work was harshly criticized, yet moved him into a higher realm of artistic expression. Vrubel portrays the Demon as a romantic spirit, full of hope and searching for harmony and truth. He seems to briefly fulfill his longing, but suddenly has his hopes dashed. Vrubel described this Demon as (and I paraphrase) the unity of the masculine and feminine in one being. It’s a spirit, not so much evil as suffering and sorrowing. However, the sorrow does nothing to diminish its power and majesty.
The Demon Seated, oil on canvas, 1890
A mysterious handmaid who looks like she stepped out of a dream. Aron Wiesenfeld’s artwork sets a perfect eerie mood. His paintings have been used for covers on dozens of books of poetry, including The Other Sky, a collaborative book project with poet Bruce Bond. In 2014, a large monograph of his work titled “The Well,” was published by IDW Press. He was recently named one of the top 100 figurative painters by Buzzfeed. He currently lives in San Diego, California.
The Handmaid, oil on canvas
I couldn’t resist including a piece from one of my favorite living masters and fellow Floridian, Steven Kenny. His paintings most often focus on the human figure, paired with elements found in nature. These surreal, symbolic juxtapositions are intended to work on at least two levels. At the very least, he desires to create images of beauty and mystery that allow the viewer to find their own personal significance in them.
The Esoteric is a powerful piece. In the olden days, achieving esoteric knowledge meant getting initiated into the mystical arts, learning secrets unknown to regular folks.
The Esoteric, oil on panel, 2013
Here’s another piece that grabbed me. Meet the Witch of the White Wood, by Vancouver digital painter, game developer and animator, Eran Fowler. His work is highly skilled and accurate, and brings imaginary creatures to life.
Witch of the White Wood
No mystical or supernatural collection would be complete without The Scream, (Norwegian: Skrik). This four-version composition was collectively and appropriately titled. They were created as both paintings and pastels, by Norwegian Expressionist artist, Edvard Munch, between 1893 and 1910. The German title Munch gave his works is Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature). The works show a figure with an agonizing expression against a landscape, with a tumultuous orange sky. Arthur Lubow has described The Scream as “…an icon of modern art; a Mona Lisa for our time.”
The 1895 pastel-on-board version sold at Sotheby’s for a record US $120 million at auction, on May 2, 2012.
The Scream, oil, tempera, pastel on cardboard, 1893
This series of acrylic seasonal paintings, by American artist, Mike Doyle, makes me think about those evenings when kids gather and share scary stories. Yet there’s a certain softness and a tint of good magic in them: something you see in book illustrations.
Mike started painting in his teens, taking school-offered classes when he could. By his late twenties, he started a family and a career, and put his art interests aside. Now, decades later, in retirement, he began painting again — January of this year. “I am fascinated and consumed with the phenomenon of creating works that examine the concert of colors, shapes and perspectives. From a blank canvas, a painting develops telling a story that creates emotions.”
Twisted Destination, acrylic on canvas, 2017
Spook House, acrylic on canvas, 2017
Moonlight of the Mahamudra, acrylic on canvas, 2017
[wartburg.edu, www.sothebys.com, https://fascinationwithfear.blogspot.com, www.prevention.com, wiki, www.aronwiesenfeld.com, www.stevenkenny.com, http://eranfolio.com, www.ibiblio.org/wm/paint/auth/munch ]